Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Packing it In: 6 Tips for Successful On-the-Go Organizing

Having just returned from a trip, I have packing on the brain. Once again, I've stumbled upon ideas not through training as a professional organizer, but as a real-life person who's sometimes (okay, often) messy and has to work at this organizing business.

Worse yet, when it comes time to pack for a trip, I can elevate my procrastination skills to an art form. Unlike my husband, who packs up to a week ahead of time, I can think of 10,000 essential things that must be done the day before we leave, all linked by one common denominator.

They have nothing to do with with packing.

Packing list photo:
Before this last trip, I wasted at least half an hour trying out several packing list apps in an effort to simplify the process and make sure I didn't forget anything. And you know what?

The best way to simplify the process is a plain, old-fashioned, hand-written list. Packing apps and online packing lists are a great start, but until we personalize them (sound familiar?), they're not a relevant shortcut.

So, beginning with that list and in no particular order afterward, here are six things that worked for me on this trip.

A list. General lists are a great starting point, providing the major categories we need. From there, we can fill in the details. For a great time waster, or to explore these in more detail, Google "packing list" and click on any of the pages (and pages) of lists that pop up.

Pre-packing. I keep travel-sized toiletries pre-packed in a bag I use only for travel. Over the years, we've also acquired duplicates of necessary items (an extra peak flow meter for my daughter, for example, and extra sets of sheets for the condo we rent at the beach) as well as stocking up on supplies necessary for specific trips when they're on sale (liquid hand soap for that same condo). I used to store all of these in a suitcase, but have since come up with a different plan -- stop back tomorrow for details :-)

Multiple suitcases. My husband and daughter, both of whom are taller and stronger than I am, prefer to cram everything into one oversized suitcase. I, on the other hand, prefer two smaller, more manageable bags (one has wheels and therefore rolls, the other has multiple straps). For maximum efficiency, I subdivide by category (tops, bottoms, pajamas, etc.), putting all items of each category into the same bag so I can keep the rummaging through bags to a minimum. When hanging space is limited, this prevents additional wrinkles, too, since I'm not disturbing every item of clothing I've brought along just to dig out a sweatshirt at the bottom of one suitcase.

Shoe bags. One of my all-time favorite repurposing successes was using the cloth bags that sheets sometimes come in as shoe bags. Some are too small for shoes, but make great little bags for other small items like belts, scarves or even toiletries. On this last trip, the drawstring came out of one of the casings, so I just bunched the cloth up and tied the string around the top. Shoes are contained and other items in the bag are protected.

Thirty-One Gifts
Flexible/expandable bags. Years ago, on a cruise, I found a great bag that expands via a zipper in the middle. It's the perfect bag for any trip where shopping and souvenirs are inevitable. Just unzip the bag at the center and it expands to create more space for all the goodies you want to bring home.

A catch-all bag...or two. No matter how organized I am, there are always a few last minute "oops" or overflow items that need a home between destinations. My go-to bag, an oversized reusable grocery bag, is at right. It's simple to toss things into and sturdy enough to be both squishable and overstuffable. Perhaps best of all, it's waterproof and can be wiped clean inside if sand or crumbs hitch a ride along with the intended contents...or if you decide to use it for dirty laundry...or shoes...or just want to clean it out between trips.
I got my wild, purple print bag like this
at Borders years ago. These are from

One thing I typically toss into this bag is a tote bag on a carabiner clip that folds up into a little (matching) case. It's small enough to fit into my purse, too, so if the shopping gets serious, I have a place to put everything.

It never hurts to be prepared.

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